Canucks: Where Will the Manitoba Moose Go with the Imminent Arrival of Thrashers

Kevin WContributor IIMay 20, 2011

Manitoba Moose
Manitoba MooseDave Sandford/Getty Images

Stephen Brunt of the Globe & Mail and Rogers Sportsnet reported late Thursday night that sources have told him an agreement has been made for Atlanta Spirit, LCC to sell the Atlanta Thrashers to Canadian businessmen David Thomson and Mark Chipman, who would move the franchise to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Brunt goes as far as saying an announcement will be coming on Tuesday at Winnipeg from commissioner Gary Bettman and that the NHL Board of Governors had approved the relocation of the franchise as far as a few months ago.

Others in the media, namely TSN's Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie denied an agreement had been reached.

A spokesperson for Thomson and Chipman's company True North Sports & Entertainment and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly have denied the story as well.

However, Brunt's Rogers Sportsnet colleague Nick Kypreos has confirmed his story and Winnipeg's mayor.

We will see if there's an announcement on Tuesday, but if there is, there will be implications for the Vancouver Canucks franchise—they could be without both an AHL and ECHL minor league affiliation.

The Canucks AHL farm team currently play out of the MTS Centre in Downtown Winnipeg. With the NHL's arrival, there is no way both a NHL and AHL team can play out of the same building in a metropolitan area with a population of 694,668.

True North Sports & Entertainment is expected to sell the AHL franchise or if a sale cannot be completed for the franchise in time for the start of the 2011-12 season, the team could suspend operations and remain dormant for the foreseeable future.

Rogers Sportsnet's John Shannon reported last night that St. John's, Newfoundland and Thunder Bay, Ontario are frontrunner's to get the Manitoba Moose. 

Perspective owners can purchase the Manitoba Moose and move the team to St. John's, but there are doubts the Canucks will wish to continue their affiliation with the franchise as they would have their top minor league affiliate on the other side of the continent. 

Back in 2003, University of British Columbia third-string goaltender Chris Levesque ended up backing up Johan Hedberg in a game because the Moose were on an Atlantic road trip in St. John's, so the team could not fly in Alex Auld in time for the game. 

Thunder Bay is a possibility, but the Canucks have enjoyed their affiliation in the city of Winnipeg because it closely emulates the NHL life with a NHL quality arena and facilities. Having their prospects play out of a 60-year-old and 3600-seat arena is not enticing. 

The month of June is fast approaching and it's likely all leagues in North America have completed their scheduling and are not prepared for any one of its member franchises to move. 

For the Canucks to move into a more desirable market, say Saskatoon, it would require the WHL's Saskatoon Blades to move to another city. 

The Canucks could possibly purchase the Manitoba Moose and add it to the Canucks Sports & Entertainment Empire and have them play out of Rogers Arena for one year while they work on another affiliation or negotiate for the Calgary Flames to move their AHL franchise, the Heat, out of Abbotsford. 

However, this option may require the Canucks to subsidize the Vancouver Giants for potential losses.

The other option would be to share an AHL affiliation with another NHL team, but that can be problematic as the Canucks have traditionally had their minor league coach play a similar system to Alain Vigneault, which allows for a seamless transition for call-ups. 

Will be interesting how everything plays out.


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